The S/S 2011 men’s collections in Milan were about the ABCs of classic menswear, though expertly reinvented with the aim of fueling sales. The shows, held June 19-22, formed one of the shortest editions of fashion week in Milan, but also offered significant innovation, based less on pure aesthetics than quality and substance.

Thom Browne’s Moncler Gamme Bleu reinterpreted bicyclewear in a collection that meshed functionality with style and was shown on models riding bikes through Milan’s huge Velodrome Vigorelli. Technical fabrics, ergonomically fitted garments, and smart blue, red, white and gray men’s items rounded out the new collection. Also reinterpreting the classics was Burberry which showed leather biker jackets with military details, oversized studs and huge quantities of metallic applications. John Richmond too focused on leather biker jackets, tweaking them with white leather inserts and butterfly-like accents. Emporio Armani played with leggings by showing them worn with Bermudas. He also reinterpreted gray, a hot hue these days, in new technical superlight fabrics.

Denim continues to be an indispensable component of the male wardrobe and at its best when referencing the past. DSquared rediscovered 80s high-waisted denims and ironed-front pleats worn with white, pink or tobacco fitted silk shirts. The entire collection and show was inspired by the film, “American Gigolo,” in which breakout star Richard Gere modeled menswear by Giorgio Armani. Gucci played with hippie-style denim shirts decorated with geometric appliques and small leather details. Vivienne Westwood continued her collaboration with Lee, offering supertreated denim (read painted, dirty, patchworked or coated with holograms) and innovative fits.

On the opposite spectrum of denim and sportswear, blazers were a must for almost every brand. Giorgio Armani reinvented the double-breasted jacket with less volume and a closer fit. Etro relaunched the blazer in silk variations printed with oversize and mini Paisley prints or with environmental motifs or tone-on-tone contrasting. It completed the look with sheer, printed chiffon shirts. Celebrating one hundred years in the business with a memorable party, Zegna also presented a variety of blazers. Most interesting were the striped linen ones and its rust palette, long forgotten but now looking fresh for tomorrow. Z Zegna offered irregular patchwork detailing and mixed weave effects and a range of innovative fibers and fabric alternatives.

Iceberg, Avon Celli and Ermanno Scervino offered their own interpretations of the jersey and knitwear blazer. Knitwear was key for Iceberg, which presented coal-effect printed torchon knitwear, often completed with ribbed, striped borders, solid yarn knitted jackets, and mixed fabric sweatpants and tops.

Bermudas and shorts were everywhere, often worn with jackets. Scervino chose turned-up hot pants in pinstripe fabric as well as short body-hugging cargo models.

More conceptual were Marni’s abstract printed T-shirts and color-blocked items and Prada with its contemporary approach to workwear. As labor disputes hit the news, Prada unveiled a variety of workwear uniforms, from the manager’s suit to scrubs in denim and sulphur-blue wide pants worn with fanny packs in lieu of luxurious carry-alls. Will these be her next “it” bags?